OWC offers more details about 2011 Apple iMac hard drive ‘restrictions’

“It’s incredible the coverage generated by [our] blog article on the further iMac upgrade restrictions. I’d like to personally address some questions, context, and provide additional technical detail concerning this issue,” Larry O’Connor blogs for Other World Computing. “I want to be very clear that I think these are absolutely the best iMacs ever. These machines up the game considerably and provide performance that can even match up with the Mac Pro for a lot of applications. We’ve been excitedly covering these new iMacs starting with an unboxing and teardown blog post just hours after they were first introduced.”

O’Connor writes, “Most iMac buyers (and buyers of anything Apple in general) are more than satisfied with how things are right out of the box. The vast majority will never even think about after purchase options that Apple does support, such as installing additional memory. These are great systems right from the get-go… But pardon us or anyone who wants to make them even better. :)”

“Apple didn’t make any barrier with [respect to upgrading hard drives in] the 2010 (or 2009) models,” O’Connor writes, “the barrier to plug & play drive options in this case is a lack of industry drive standards on the extra drive pins. So, perhaps use of this additional line on the power connector (which is standard on all SATA drives) might be an industry standard in the future.”

O’Connor writes, “And if so – then it’s only Apple today, with a firmware set that enables this feature, which just isn’t standard on retail drives yet. If so – it might not be as big a deal. There is still a question I’d like to know the answer to – why isn’t Apple simply using the S.M.A.R.T. reporting feature of today’s drives for the drive temperature information? That doesn’t require/use any extra pin out/line out and I am not aware of any disadvantage from utilizing this option. Maybe someone out there has insight on Apple not using the thermal data via S.M.A.R.T.?”

“The bottom line is that work around options are in play now, and with further testing, we should be able to be confident in one solution [or] another,” O’Connor writes. “Whatever the solution – the best solution, in my opinion, would be not needing to find a solution in the first place. Certainly it’s a very small percentage that are even going to want, or need, to replace drives in their iMac… Apple made that hard enough as it is… But for those few, it didn’t need to be this hard.”

Much more detail in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
OWC: Apple’s design changes to new iMacs restrict main drive upgrades – May 12, 2011
SSD Shootout: OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD vs. the rest – April 13, 2011


  1. There are those who would use a magic marker to draw eye brows on the Mona Lisa… use an external drive or buy another computer that will allow you to junk it on a whim… whine about anything that ain’t what you want… Apple is smart to ignore those of the geek fringe who want to disassemble and re-arrange the insides of computers, thinking they know better than the engineers/designers

    1. And a month out of warranty when a drive fails….. You say I should pay out the ass for apple to swap me a new hd. Or I can go to the store and buy one for 10% of apples charge.

      Hd and ram should be standard. People like me who WILL replace the hd someday in my new iMac just want to be able to do so, it’s not rearranging or using a magic marker like you say to REPLACE a hd.
      Let’s see, $1200 for ram from apple, or $200 from owc….. Hmmmmm yep, I’m buying apples ram.

      I don’t see this as a barrier, or a fault of apple either. The hd will be replaceable at some point. Honestly the rest of the industry will probably follow apple on Thai and it will be once again a moot point.

        1. Cause they wanted $1100 and sone change to upgrade my Mac pro’s ram last year.
          And for whatever reason I thought it was $1200 for the iMac. When I built mine I didn’t even bother, I knew I would buy aftermarket ram a hell of alot cheaper.
          And not the hynix/samsung apple uses.

          Even at 3x the cost, why would anyone buy ram from apple?

            1. You did exaggerate the hard drive costs. Unless a different “Backlash” posted this: “You say I should pay out the ass for apple to swap me a new hd. Or I can go to the store and buy one for 10% of apples charge.” Seriously, a 90% price difference?

              And, just so you know, the 2010 and 2011 iMacs can in fact support 32GB of RAM.

              I think you should probably read more and post less. And save the hyperbole.

            2. I didn’t see the 10% part I wrote, don’t remember it anyway.

              But according to apple, 16gb on the iMac, http://www.apple.com/imac/specs.html

              But if it’s 32gb, my point still stands. $1200 for ram.
              As far as drives, apple wants $150 to upgrade(at the build screen) over the price of a 1tb drive. You can buy a 2 tb drive for $75, or a replacement 1tb for $60. Or buy both for less than the cost of 1 2tb from apple… So at minimum 50% more at apple. And you only get 1 drive. Aftermarket would get you the stock and the replacement.
              And them there’s the apple cost for the tech to install it at the apple store after the warranty is done.
              10% may have been a little much, but it’s not that far off. Apple wanted $200 for a replacement vid card for my power Mac… I bought one on amazon for $15…

  2. In fact, the 2 aditional pins will became a standard in a near future.
    Window Vista was trying to create a system for Hybrid Drives (part Flash, part disc), Not surprising that Microsoft could not make it reality. Apple will create a similar system, but this time it will work. The new pins are specially designed for the new Intel chipset and will be able to make Hybrid drives but using the normal Hard Drive and the Flash based ones.

  3. I agree 100%.

    What percentage of customers would even think about doing such a thing. My guess is this writer is more interested in showing how much smarter he is then everyone else is instead of actually writing something useful or meaningful. I’ll bet he’s a lot of fun at a parties, NOT!
    Like a vast majority of us “simple folk”, I think they would just plug in an external drive and go enjoy their lives. Kind of like right now, I’m in my exercise room getting my morning workout, replying on my iPad, looking over the lake while Mt. Rainier slowly exposes itself beyond the morning clouds and I contemplate what adventure is in store for the rest of my day.

    I guess it comes down to a basic concept which is, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Good day MDN folks!

    1. “My guess is this writer is more interested in showing how much smarter he is then everyone else …”

      I don’t know about “everyone else”, but he’s sure as hell smarter than you. Try a real “adventure” and get a clue.

    2. What a wanker you are iGads. Many people replace hard drives for a variety of reasons. I keep my computers for as long as possible before junking them – something to do with being a responsible citizen I guess. When I bought a top end mac pro in 2003 it had a 160Gb HD as strandard. Surely even you could see my need to replace it with something bigger a little further down the track. And yes, I still have it and it still works very well with a pair of 1Gb drives in it.

      1. Why not just take advantage of the Thunderbolt ports and connect an external drive to use as the boot drive? The Thunderbolt interface is faster than the internal SATA anyway (not that the SATA drive in the external enclosure would be any faster for it).

        By the time an internal HDD in an iMac needs to be replaced, there will probably even be fairly reasonably priced Thunderbolt SSD enclosures available, which will be better than the SATA HDD anyway.

        This is much ado about nothing.

  4. Have you considered buying a Mac Pro which is designed for swappable drives, cards and easily upgraded memory? It would likely be better than having an iMac if you like to tinker around with computer innards. The iMac isn’t supposed to have user upgradeable drives even when they didn’t use specialized drives and cables.

    I’m certain a third-party company will have some sort of connector that tricks the motherboard into believing a retail hard drive is an Apple hard drive but it might take a couple of months to work out a solution.

    1. My new iMac sits next to one…
      Hd and ram should never be an issue when you need to replace/upgrade.

      Not like I’m trying to replace the vid card…

      And I agree, it’s not a setback. By the time I want to buy a new hd, this will be a non issue. Either a workaround or a direct replacement drive will work.

      People are making a fuss about nothing.

  5. My 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo iMac still runs like a champ, but my friend’s identical machine needed a new hard drive recently. She paid $45 for the drive (250GB 7200rpm SATA) and $50 for installation by an independent Mac repair shop. End of story.

    The day that iMac owners can’t replace a dead startup drive this easily and cheaply is the day that Apple has one big, fat problem. OWC’s blog posts on this issue may have been a tad inflammatory, but that’s not the issue. I just hope Apple hasn’t turned the iMac into a hard drive replacement nightmare waiting to happen.

    1. Have you seen what’s necessary to replace the hard drive? It already looks like a replacement nightmare waiting to happen…

      Think I’m going to get an ocz vertex3 and let my local authorized repair shop install it on my ’11 27 inch. Boo-yeah!

  6. One of the more interesting takes I’ve seen on staying with “industry standards” and “current ‘best practices'” is:
       That’s the road to mediocrity!

  7. Apple is prone to use new standards and technologies before other companies. That’s probably all this is, and OWC will catch up. However, even if this were a proprietary interface designed to keep customers and OWC from messing with the innards, why does it matter?

    The main reason anyone upgrades the internal drive is because external drives are slower.

    However, iMacs now have TWO, count them, TWO Thunderbolt ports, each capable of daisy chaining several devices. In a couple of months, we’ll be able to add external drives that are just as fast as the internal drives. In fact, if the internal drive is HDD and the external drives are SSD, the external drives might even be faster.

    If the new internal connector is a new industry standard, why should I care? If I had a new iMac, I wouldn’t need to upgrade the disk for at least a few months anyway, and by then I’ll be able to get disks with the new connector from any manufacturer.

    If the new internal connector is a proprietary Apple connector, why should I care? Installing an external Thunderbolt drive takes less time than taking it out of the box, and it has no performance penalty over an internal drive. Plus, if I don’t open the case, I can’t damage anything inside.

    Either Apple is preventing me from upgrading the internal disk or they aren’t. Either way, I see no reason to care about it.

  8. On “…an industry standard in the future.”
    That’s the way Apple always HAS rolled; the way Apple always WILL roll. Get used to it.

    “Maybe someone out there has insight on Apple not using the thermal data via S.M.A.R.T.?”
    Yeah, maybe it’s APPLE who has that insight.
    But hey, I have an idea… Let’s just say it’s because they’re greedy, and want to control every aspect of our lives. Yeah, that sounds good. Lets go with that take.

  9. “a tad inflammatory, but that’s not the issue”

    You’re wrong. That is ALWAYS the issue. Whether it’s antennagate, Apple running slave factories, or anything you want to pick. It’s about hyper-reacting to things that nobody gives a damn about when it is concerning some other company.
    Inflammatory is ALWAYS the issue.

  10. Okay, there is the case of replacing a bad internal disk. That happened to me, but the fix was free since I had Applecare. But assuming your budget is too tight to spent $169 on Apple Care, you’re out of warranty, and your internal disk is destroyed, it’s still not a problem with new iMacs.

    Macs can boot from external disks, and booting from an external Thunderbolt disk would be just as fast as booting from an internal disk. With Thunderbolt, who cares if the boot disk is internal, where it is difficult to replace, or external, where it’s easy to replace?

    If you have to save up your pennies to afford an internal disk replacement at the Apple Store, Thunderbolt lets you take your time. You might even decide just to go with external disks.

  11. What a tool you are iGads. Many people replace hard drives for a variety of reasons. I keep my computers for as long as possible before junking them – something to do with being a responsible citizen I guess. When I bought a top end mac pro in 2003 it had a 160Gb HD as strandard. Surely even you could see my need to replace it with something bigger a little further down the track. And yes, I still have it and it still works very well with a pair of 1Gb drives in it.

  12. I’m not too sure why people are getting there knickers in a twist.
    First in a forum in Appleinsider several people have got non-stock drives to work by switching over the heat sensor.
    Second the warranty is good for a year and three years if you extend it. So if the drive goes out then Apple will replace it under warranty.
    Third, non-Apple solutions will surely come out in the next few months and solve this issue.

    Apple is often in the situation when they come out with new technology and sacrifice older tech for form and function. That is why they are great and not like PC makers like Dell.
    A few examples are USB and now Thunderbolt. For a number of months it was hard to get any USB devices but that’s progress for you.

  13. It is also a fact that the OWC SSD’s are MUCH faster than the ones that Apple uses. I don’t know if this affects the replacement of a minimum size HD with and OWC SSD, but I expect it would. I have an OWC SSD in my new Mac Pro and it is terrific. Just compare the specs on Mac Performance Guide amongst the various SSDs (especially compared to spinning platter drives), and the price, and you will see why this is important to people like myself who do video and photography (large files). I hope this doesn’t spread to Mac Pros.

  14. I am not one to criticize Apple often. However, seeing that I can replace a hard drive in my MacBookPro in <10 min I completely fail to see why swapping disks in the much larger iMac has to be such a pain in the neck.
    Get rid of the old 3.5" monsters and switch to 2.5" models. Those could be housed in drive bays that are accessible from the bottom, just like the RAM. This would also make it easier to switch machines. Buy a new iMac, switch the drives with your old one, and you can even be sure that you have not left sensitive data when the old machine goes on ebay.
    This is how I migrated from my white MacBook to my new Pro. Just swapped drives. 10 minutes, and the new MBP was ready for work.
    Hell, they can secure the drive bays with new, proprietary iScrews for which I'll gladly buy the screwdriver at the AppleStore.

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